Highest-paid lawyer faces inquiry over miners' cash

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A solicitor who has become Britain's highest earning lawyer is being investigated by the Law Society over allegations that millions of pounds of compensation paid to sick miners was mishandled.

Andrew Nulty, named today as the highest paid solicitor in the country with personal profits of £13m last year, has made most of his money from fees paid out of a government-run scheme to compensate miners for a range of heart and lung diseases.

His Manchester-based law firm, Avalon, brought in £21.2m in fees during the past financial year, and made a net profit of £15.5m - a margin of 73 per cent, according to the Lawyer magazine. Such profitability has catapulted the firm to the top of a table of the 100 most successful law firms. Avalon's average profit per equity partner, £7.75m, dwarfs the rest of the UK's top 100 firms whose very best paid lawyers earn little more than £1m.

Avalon has just two partners, Mr Nulty and managing partner, Anthony Chorlton. Mr Nulty took home the lion's share of the profits, some £13m, with Mr Chorlton on about £2.5m. The bulk of Avalon's turnover, 68 per cent or £14.4m, came from acting for miners claiming compensation under the Department of Trade and Industry's Coal Health scheme. The firm is one of about a dozen awaiting a Law Society disciplinary tribunal hearing for its role in the scheme.

Mr Nulty, 42, was a minor television presenter before becoming a solicitor and is still thought to possess an Equity card. He was unavailable for comment yesterday but his managing partner, Mr Chorlton, said: "We are proud to be part of the UK top 100 law firms. With regard to the Law Society, our professional advisers have been instructed to assist in any inquiry."

A spokesman for the Law Society said that Mr Nulty "was facing a number of allegations of misconduct over the handling of miners' compensation".

Mr Nulty told the Lawyer: "I can confirm that all miners' claims dealt with by Avalon have received their full compensatory award, with no deductions from their awards."

The Lawyer said that almost 400 solicitors now earn £1m a year.